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Dim Eve Draws on.
"BEHOLD, the noonday sun of life
And all the glow-worm lamps are dead
Gave fickle promises of joy;
'Abide with us, we pray!'
"Dim eve draws on, and many a friend, Our early path that blest,
Wrapt in the cerements of the tomb,
The Infirmities of age.
KING SOLOMON, who was a wise observer of human nature, gives us a full description of the infirmities of age, expressed in what is called a figurative manner, the substance of which is easily understood, though, from not knowing perfectly the customs or the proverbial sayings to which he alludes, we may not be able exactly to explain every part of them.
Solomon describes old age by the darkening of the sun, the moon and the stars; and the return of the clouds after the rain. When thick and heavy clouds obscure the cheerful light of the sun by day, or of the moon and stars by night, people complain of the dulness of the weather, as it checks their pursuits both of business and pleasure; and thus it is in old age-afflictions of body and troubles of mind often produce a gloom; the days are dull, the nights are wearisome, and none of that pleasure is felt which the young, who have health, strength, and lively
* Eccles. xii. 1, 7.
spirits, generally enjoy. And then, it is added, "the clouds return after the rain"—that is, one pain and affliction succceds another, as the clouds often do in a rainy season. In showery weather the clouds sometimes disperse, the clear shining of the sun succeeds for a little while; but soon the sky is overcast again, and a heavy shower descends. And thus in old age painful disorders are sometimes remitted, and the hope that health is returning is indulged; but, alas! the interval of ease is short; the pain is renewed"the clouds return after the rain."
Another infirmity of age is thus expressed-"The keepers of the house tremble"-the hands and arms, like faithful watchmen, were always ready to defend the body from assaults and dangers; but these become feeble, are sometimes tremulous by palsy, and can no longer prove a sufficient guard from assaults or accidents. In like manner, "the strong men bow themselves"-the legs and thighs, which, in youth were like strong men, able to bear a heavy burden, are now become feeble, and too weak to bear the weight of the body, which totters from side to side, and without assistance is in danger of falling to the ground! The foresight of such a state led the Psalmist to pray, "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth."
The failure of the teeth, so useful in preparing the food for its digestion in the stomach, is another infirmity of age which the wise man thus expresses : "The grinders shall cease because they are few;" the teeth, which in youth grind the food, like the stones in a corn mill, are decayed, or loose, or totally lost; so that some kinds of food cannot be eaten at all, and others are very imperfectly prepared for the stomach.
In old age the sight usually fails more or less, and in many mournful cases is totally lost. Solomon thus describes this affliction: "Those that look out of the windows are darkened." The eyes have been justly called "the windows of the soul." From these windows the mind surveys with pleasure the faces of dear relations and friends, and the delightful prospects of nature; discovers the approaches of danger, and reads the page of instruction. But all these sources of pleasure and safety are closed; the day is gone; the night, the long dark night, which will know no morning in this life, is come; and half the world, as to our enjoyment of it, is shut out for the rest of our days.
"The doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low." There seems to be an allusion here to the custom of the ancients, who, early in the
morning, as soon as the doors of the house were opened, ground their corn for the day in a hand-mill, If this refers to the grinding of food by the teeth, then it may signify the want of appetite and the refusal of food. Or it may signify their loving to stay at home, and keeping the doors of the house shut to prevent being disturbed by company. Others think it refers to "the door of the lips," and the aversion of aged people to speak much, especially in public.
"And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird." Old age is usually wakeful. Sleep, the "sweet restorer of tired nature," often departs from the eyes of the aged, or, if they sleep, they are easily disturbed. Even the crowing of the cock or the chirping of the birds will awake them; and often, unable to rest and tired of bed, they will rise at a very early hour.
"And all the daughters of music shall be brought low." Age generally loses its relish for music and singing. That which was, perhaps, a great delight becomes rather a burden; the breathing is short and the voice tremulous. Aged Barzillai, whom King David would have taken to court, declined the proposal, saying, "I am this day fourscore years old; can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women?